What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Watches will be well repaired, Clocks put in good Order.”
It was the first advertisement that watchmaker Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith placed in the New-Hampshire Gazette in more than two months. On the last day of August 1770, he inserted a brief notice stating that he “HEREBY informs the Public, that he has removed to s Shop between the two Taverns, Foss and Tiltons, where Watches will be well repaired, Clocks put in good Order, in the best Manner.” Griffith struck a different tone in this advertisement than the last one he published. Previously, he devoted a much longer advertisement to insulting competitor and rival watchmaker John Simnet, who was “as great a Watch-Maker as he is a Mountebank,” according to Griffith. In turn, Simnet placed a trio of advertisements that pilloried Griffith. Those notices went unanswered.
Griffith did not return to the public prints while Simnet remained in New Hampshire. Perhaps he knew that his cantankerous rival planned to call it quits in Portsmouth and relocate to New York. If that was the case, Griffith may not have considered it worth his effort to prolong a feud with a competitor who was headed out of town, even one who had been as abusive as Simnet had been during the eighteen months that he worked in New Hampshire and placed advertisements in the local newspaper. Indeed, Simnet began advertising in the New-York Journal a week before Griffith once again placed a notice in the New-Hampshire Gazette.
For Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, this meant less revenue generated from advertisements related to the conflict between Griffith and Simnet. It also meant that they lost content that previously helped fill the pages and quite likely entertained readers who enjoyed watching the altercation between the watchmakers. The last time Griffith and Simnet placed advertisements in the same edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, they conveniently appeared one after the other in order to better craft a narrative for readers. Anyone who regularly read that newspaper would have already been familiar with the ongoing squabble that played itself in the public prints. Life may have become more placid for Griffith after Simnet’s departure, but reading the New-Hampshire Gazette also became a little less interesting for anyone who enjoyed witnessing the bickering and creative taunts between the watchmakers.